Friday, December 29, 2006

When it thawed

He stood up and walked slowly and aimlessly, heading towards the edge of the hill.

Although he had sat there with the others, he stared straight, gaze fixed on the bottle of water, submerged in thoughts, isolating himself mentally. No comments, no jokes, he spent the time in silence while the others relaxed, had fun and eased away their weariness. The climb had been exhausting and everyone was trying to get back as much energy possible by consuming some snacks and fluids. He just took a few biscuits and a little juice, still mute in musing.

Several images crossed his mind... flickering, looping, growing dark and bright repeatedly like the fuse of a bulb moments prior to burning out.
He felt miserable at the control he lacked over his life. The independent, unstoppable way, in which it kept moving on, he felt stuck light years behind.

He hated every bit of his present state... his job, the 'software engineer' tag attached every time somebody referred to him, the talks about him 'settling down in life' which occurred almost every time relatives or friends spoke to/about him, codes and bugs, deadlines and commitments... it all made him feel sick, angry, guilty, helpless and lost.

The heat of the afternoon sun burned the skin on his cheeks as he stood, inches away from the edge, with an almost face-to-face glare at the sun.
the clouds, they appeared to him as if they were inviting him to float along, void of any responsibilities or constraints, nowhere in particular to go, no one in particular to meet, unstained and unstrained freedom.

"Just another step and you would be there" he said to himself.

"Would I really be missing anything if I were to proceed? Anything worthwhile for me if I restrain myself?"

As he continued contemplating, still looking intently at the silky white cloud, he heard someone approaching him. Not willing to be disturbed, he decided not to take notice.

"Hey mister software engineer... what are you doing here? Remote terminal bug
fixing eh?" said Anirudh, jovially, still a few steps away from sandeep.

He felt annoyed at this intrusion. He stayed inert, without responding, trying to neglect anirudh's presence.

Noticing this behaviour, anirudh decided not to probe too much. He walked up
to the edge, stood next to him and looked in the direction of the same cloud.
The next few minutes continued in silence, with both the men just staring at the sky.

Allowing the mind waves to settle down, giving it some time, anirudh said in a low, serious tone, sounding the least interrogative
"You seem to be looking for something".

sandeep felt he wasn’t being pulled into any silly talking and replied
"Hmmm... yes... searching for the thing i lost long ago... this thing called life"

"And what do you see up there?"

"Happiness... freedom... peace of mind... what not?"

"And how would you get all that?"

"Just another step pal... one small step" stressing on each of the words.

"Hmmm... damn simple right? Ok... go ahead... and then what would happen?...You'll be dead?" said anirudh in a bold, non-compassionate manner.

"Dead?... I won’t die ani... there is'nt any life left in me to die" said sandeep
trying to put across the statement as if it was a simple logical one.

While the conversation went on, neither of them looked at the other, still focusing on the same cloud.

"Ok... move forward slightly and look down" said anirudh, shifting gaze and looking directly into sandeep's face.

sandeep felt slightly puzzled at the pitiless way anirudh was talking, and could sense a small measure of fear rise inside. He just bent forward, firmly gripping his feet on the ground and looked down the drop. The wind was strong and it played silent songs into his ears. He stared at the bottomless depth. The openness and the emptiness that he saw made the fear inside him to grow. Just a few seconds and then he stood upright, looking at the sky. anirudh remained unmoved and silent. He could sense many things going through sandeep's mind. After a brief pause he said "so... what did you see?"

"Nothing... everything was blank" sandeep replied in a slightly scared and
weak voice.

" dint see a thing?"

No response.

"Ok... I’ll tell you what you saw." looking directly into his eyes "you saw life... its only when you stare into the face of death that you realize life."

sandeep dint say a word. His silence spoke it all.

anirudh tossed the bike key towards him and sandeep hurriedly caught it as if a
glass vase was thrown at him.

"Come" said anirudh turning towards away from the edge.


"Lets hit the road" anirudh walked away from him leaving him back in isolation.

sandeep looked at the cloud again, turned around and saw anirudh walking. The
rest of the group remained as it was, relaxing and having fun, unaware of the whole episode. He walked up to them and picked up a bottle of water and returned back to the edge. He let the water run down his face and watched it as it went down the drop, disappearing into the emptiness. He felt the cool of the wind blowing across his wet face.
He walked back to the guys, threw the empty bottle at one of them and said "ok guys... i guess thats enough of rest... get up.... lets go....
lets hit the road"

PS: This story nucleated from one of Anto's statements( we know).
he one day said, when he was talking about the people at his workplace, "maam.... even if the floor above falls on them, they wont die maam... there's no life will they die"

And this post is an ode to one of the few activities that injects a good dose of life into our lives... biking. Every single bike trip (and the small treks too) have been stand-out experieces in the otherwise monotonous life.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


The synchronous yelling as i entered home, was completely incomprehensible. Mom, dad n sister went up in unison against me and the whole scene looked like a well-arranged symphony orchestra as each one played harmony to the other! The sound just kept amplifying and the intensity looked ever increasing! It took me almost five minutes to understand why i was at the recieving end of this sortie, and it made me furious. Left with no other options, i had to counter-attack and shout them down . Finally, what was the reason for all this.... i had forgotten to carry my mobile phone with me and had left it back home!!! They had tried calling me, ultimately discovering the phone ringing on the sofa (ta tada tatta tadatataaa!...supershtar's intro music in muthu was my ring-tone!!!)

"so what if i'v forgotten my phone" i yelled in irritation.

"how irresponsible u r... cant u inform us about where u r" mom said.
i had left home at 8 in the mornin n it was around 2 when i returned. jus normal hours of any day, that too broad daylight! I had set out with a big list of things to do, which included medical-check-up, train tick reservation n some bank-work, all of which involve tiring queues and encounters with government office staffs. It had been a 'victorious day' for me as i had successfully completed all of them. Satisfied and happy i returned back home to recieve such a 'welcome home hero!' kind of reception!

"But its jus 2 noon now... not 2 midnight right??? wat the hell is all this fuss about???"

"Some Police inspector had come home. he said he wanted some info for the passport enquiry.v told him tat u've gone out n would be back by 4 or 5. he told 'ivathu eradu orey thankaney irtheevee.... adhru munchey barakkidhrey barli... illandhre monday barak heli'.That is when v tried calling u but u had not taken your phone wit u. how foolish can u get. this is wat happens if u keep listenin to songs n keep watchin tv for 24hrs everday. Your brain's out of fuse (ahha... bio-physics??!!)... because of your daily lazy routine ...n u dint even bother to call up from outsid...learn to be more responsible in life....." mom was in fine afridi form... wat a blast!!!

"ok...ok... stop shouting unnecessarily n tel me whether he asked me to get any docu's or letter"

"s... letter from two neighbours, water or elec bills of 2 months"

"ok... did he ask you'll for any money?"

"s... he said 'navu maney-maney hogi yellardhu formu check maadbeku... namge solpa aenaadhru kottrey channagirathey'.... and i gave him 20bucks"

"these fellows will never improve" i said in disgust n hunted for a white sheet n wrote a short letter. my neighbours had no problems with signing it n i was ready wit all the docu's except for the bills.
My grandmom keeps all the bills wit her in an old purse, locked up inside her bereau. For some reasons still unknown to me, she gaurds all of them very carefully and makes sure nobody even touches them!!! She was hesitant in giving me any as she thought i was very careless n would, without any doubt, loose them!!!(and what would happen even if i lost some bills which are 2 or 3 years old?... i still cant understand)
it was already 2:20 and she was making too big a fuss in giving me the bills. Finally, with some support from other people at home, i managed to get two water bills dated aug04 n oct04!
I shoved all of the doc's into my (swamiji) bag and left to the station on my bike. In this hurry, I even skipped my lunch.

This was my first ever visit to a police station. Although i had driven/walked past it for more than 20 years, i had no idea of how the inside was. From outside, its an old building, looks very much like a police station(unlike the one on commercial street), with many siezed and damaged vehicles stacked outside. I parked my bike ouside, set my hair right and proceeded inside. The security personnel standing at the gate stared at me with a hint of suspicion, which i suppose was due to my long hair and untamed beard(porki-look putting in my mom's words!).
The garden was more of an arrangement of dull, potted plants and old trees, showing clearly the absence of any care or maintenance.The narrow path in between the pots led me into a room, lifeless and minimally furnished. I tried to rehearse in my mind, to enquire about the proceedings, in kannada, to save myself from any embarrasement or abuse!
Unfortunately, before i could complete this rehearsal, i encountered one policeman, sitting across the table.

As always, fumbling and mumbling, i asked "passport verificationgey bandhidhranthey.Naanu..."
Cutting me short,he said "Last room hogi".
Now, how do i know where the "last room" is, and the rooms were not even in any kind of order or line. So finally after some enquires, i reached the last room.

This was an extremely small room, stuffed in with a 2 tables, chairs, a cupboard, and tea cups and two cops!
One guy was sitting at the bigger table, who i presumed was the "bigger guy", and the other guy at the smaller table. Both of them had the typical government-office look, or simply the "RUFF AND TUFFU" look!!! And as always, they did not bother to notice some guy standing at the door.

"Excuse me sir" i said hesitantly.

"Hmmm...yaen beku" the small-guy said, while the big-guy still busy with his newspaper.

"Passport verfication...naan maneynal irlilla..." i repeated, sounding perfectly like a kannada-stranger, somehow i had to screw up my kannada sentences!

"hmmm... documents ella idhiya?... nodi, ivrey aapiser... " he said pointing me the big-guy, who by now, was trying to lift his eyes off the paper and look at me.

I moved forward towards his table and forced myself and wished him "good morning sir".

"Baa thamma... koothko... yaak ninthaidhiya" he said, sounding authoritatively polite.

Not knowing where to start, i once again repeated my line "passport..." and fumbled and sat down.

"documents ella thakond bandhidhiya thamma?" he asked

Digging into my bag awkwardly, i took out the file, pulled out the passport application and kept it across the table and weakly replied "ella documents idhey", almost swallowing the last part of the sentence.

Holding the form in one hand, he pulled down his spectacles with the other and adjusted it in order to give him a view of the form through the gap between his eyelashes and glasses. After a few seconds of silence, he asked "hesaru aenu thamma?"

Bloody, everything's written in the form and he's already seen it too, yet "varun, sir".

"hmmm..." he browsed through the form.

"signature haakidhiya thamma?"

"haakidheen sir" pointing to my signature on the form.

"hmm...idheyna... varuna... nin sign-allu pypu idhey alva... nin hesargey correctaag idhey..."

swoosh... super bouncer.... i dint understand a word of what he said!!!
i stayed still, wearing a blank face and confused silence.

he continued... "neeno varuna bhagavan... maelindha pypu haaki maley kodthiya... nin signaturallu pypu idhey"

ah... 'pipe', i thought 'pypu' was some strange kannada word! the bits fell into place and i understood that he was talking of the 'k' in my signature which looks like a pipe or an elephant trunk.
i did not know what to reply and prolonged my silence.

"yaen thamma... artha aitha... kannada gothalva ninge?"

"aan... gothu sir"

"inna yenu... neen yaenoo haeltha illa?"

"howdhu sir... that 'k' looks like... adhu... pipe thara idhey" fumbling yet again.

"nin sign nodbittu heyltheen thamma... neen life-alli thumba channaag bartheeya... "

clean bowled!!!... what the hell do i reply to a statement like this??!!
left with no other thoughts, i said "thank you sir"

"naan eno sumney heylthaaidheeni antha ankobeda thamma... i know handwriting and signature analysis... i have read manybooks"

"oh... seri sir", this was helpless acceptance.

"what are you doing now"

"BE complete maadidheen sir... kelsa join maadbeku"

"oh... thumba olledhu thamma... yaav caste neenu"

now... this is a very irritating question, something which arouses immense anger in me, everytime someone digged into.

"general merit sir" i said, using political terms.

"adhalla pa... yaav caastu?"

"brahmin" i said, in a straight forward manner.

"hmmm... dhevru olleydhu maadthaaney ninge... u will achieve whatever you dream of"

i was confused. why is he continuing with this kind of astrology? i tried to hit him back with sympathy...
"idhu ella nim thara dhoddavra aashirvaadha sir!"(he he... high quality butter!!!)

surprisingly, this made him slightly angry and he hit back at me "i dont expect you to talk like this... you are educated... neen eethara maathaad baardhu"

accepting defeat i meekly replied "seri sir"

"nodappa... you know why i said that... nan qualification gotha..."

how am i supposed to know all that, and why should i know? before i could give him an answer he annouced grandly...
"i'm a MA philosophy degree holder from mysore univ"

"oh... very good sir". i was astonished and at the same time doubtful of his truthfullness.

"naan odhidkey yaen kelsadhall irbeku... nan ill bandhu saerkondey"

was i suppose to feel sad for him or feel happy? was he proud of joining the police dept after a PG degree or was he sad for this decision he made? i dint know how to comprehend this statement of his. while all these thoughts were running inside my head and i was yet to respond, he continued...

"naan teaching kelsakke hogidhrey, ishtralli college dean athva univ chairman aagirbaudhu"

it was clear that he was getting angrier, may be only at himself and not at me, but still, anger is anger. it could all get redirected in my direction and withhold my passport application's progress! trying to console him i said
"yes sir... you would have definitely been in a better post, but even now you are in a very good field... a job which is respected and looked up by all... neevey publicannu rakshaney maadtheera... punyvaadha kelsa alva sir?" (every part of me inside was laughing as i said this, but i somehow managed to put up a face of encouragement and seriousness!!!)

few seconds of silence. the pep-up weapon misfired. he now was angry and disgusted over himself and a little over me too for speaking counter-sentiment statements.

"ee kelsakkay MA beda thamma... sslc paas agidhray saaku"
"you dont understand... naan ellindha bandhidheeni gottha... nan kutumba yaav thara ithu..."

oh... one big story coming my way, i understood.

"yaen sir"

"nan ooru XXXX graama, XXXXX town hathra idhey" (i'm not able to recall the village and town names he mentioned, but i could figure out that it was one of those very small, interior karnataka villages)

"nan thandhey thayee ryetharu... namgey dhina mooru sala ootamaadakkashtu sambala irlilla... bari raagi moddhey matthey solpa akki... ashtey"

his body language grew more and more intense as he continued narrating his story.

"nan thayee dhina nanannu ethkondu kelsakke hoguthidhlu. dhina devasthaana mundhey hogbittu kye jodisi praarthney maadthaa idhlu"
"hingay... hingay... bagsi... nanannu hidkondu... ammaaa... dheveee... ee magunaa neenay kaapadbekamma... dhina avangay haaloo akki kodamma..." he said moving his hands and body accordingly. high class dramatic acting, i should mention and what dialog delivery... flawless!!!

Pause. He removed his spectacles, placed them on the table and closed his eyes, putting his fingers on his eyes in a near tear-wiping manner.

"dhevru hathra ee thara praarthaney maadhidhlu nan thayee... adhakkey eno naan ivaaga hingidheeni"

confusion again! what does this guy expect from me?!

"nodi sir... yeshtondhu great thaayge huttidheera... avara praarthaney matthu blessings indha ney neevu life-alli ishtella maadidheera alva sir?" i still trusted the sentiment-weapon and re-fired it.
it almost worked fine this time.

"naanu police kelsakkay select aagidheeni antha nan thayee thandhay hathra haylidhaaga
avara mukadhalli santhosha noodirbayku"

"ishtu kashtapattu dhudidhu nanannu paalidhru... ee vishya kaylidh thakshna avara poorthi jeevanakkay ondhu artha bandhidhtharaa ithu avarigay"

"oh... howdhu sir"

"ondhu vaylay nan thaayi aa dhevarhathra akki haalu badhlu, nan maganigay olle sikshaney kodamma antha kaelidhrey ee thara aagirattha?"

i was running out of statements in kannada, yet, i managed to pull off one more
"aadhroo avaru kaylidhrallu kooda ondhu artha idheyalva sir... nim thaayigay nim sikshaneykintha nim jeevana santhoshanay mukyavaagithu... adhakkey avaru hung praarthaney maadhidhru sir"

"enoppa... ivaaga avarpunyadhindha nangay kye thumba sambla, mooruvalay oota ella sigthaidhay... dhina madhyaana nangmaathra illa, yaaradhru innobrugu oota thagond bartheeni"

"oh... olleydhu sir"

he said he was indebted to her all his life and suddenly asked
"artha aaitha thamma... jeevanadhalli mundhay barakkay yaavaglu dhoddavargay mariyadhay kodbeku"

oh... 'moral of the story' eh?!!

"howdhu sir... nimthara dhoddavara aashirvaadhdindhanay nan thara chikkavarigay olledhu aagathay"

"seri thamma... documents ella idhayalva..."

finally... the story's over!!! i wanted to escape from the scene asap.

"ella hitidheeni sir"

"seri thamma... nim kaday indha namgay aenaadhru kodboudhandhrey..." he said with an endlessly extending drag.

there we go. it had to come. i was surprised how this topic was not raised until now.

i acted as if i did not understand what he said "yaen sir... nangay artha aagilla sir"

"illa thamma... nam stationary, papers intha expensegella namgay solpa sahaya maadhidhray chanaag iratthey"

for a minute, i wanted to argue about all the moral values he spoke in his flashback and what he wanted now. but i knew all this was a beautifully set up drama to finally arrive here. it inevitably had to. so i paid him 50 bucks and thanked him(for what?!)

he was not happy with the outcome. just 50 bucks for all the efforts he had taken. but i was confident he wont press me for more.

"ollaydhu thamma... hogbaa... dhevru ningay olledhu maadthaanay... horgadey sikkidhray bayti agona"

i walked out of the 'theatre' and started my bike. a smile dawned upon my face.. i thought..i won.